I am a Yeoman Farmer with enough land to keep my family, and I satisfied. We do not need slaves to work on our farms because unlike the plantation owners we rely on “home production” for basic needs (Foner 421). Other Yeoman farmers are not like me, some own “a slave or two” and would often rent them to each other in exchange for crop and money (Foner 421). However, my land lies between two plantations and in each one, there are at least fifteen slaves. Hence, living in North Carolina provides the perfect opportunity for anybody to observe both the slaves and white populace because the area is mostly rural. After all, the primary economic practices of the State revolve around plantations and the free labor with which slaves provide their owners.
Now, on each plantation, there is a white master and his wife is the mistress (Jacobs 17). Plantation owners do not care about how slaves perform their duties as long as they realize an ever-increasing profit from their produce. The responsibility of making sure that slaves toil hard enough to keep their owners happy falls on “an overseer and perhaps a slave “driver” who assisted him” (Foner 436). The two are brutal and cruel to the slaves since it is their “business to produce large crops, no matter what the cost” (Foner 436). Personally, I do not believe the overseers need to exercise such measures of cruelty. The screams of slaves as they receive a flogging for one mistake or another and the regular news of a murdered black person whose life is refundable to the owner with a few dollars is heartless. However, I am not ready to face an arrest and court hearings for helping a slave, and it will be unwise to draw unnecessary attention to myself. In addition, those white folk have ferocious dogs that do nothing but guard the slaves all day. If any of them runs away and fails to hide their scent in some way, those bloodhounds will undoubtedly find him or her and normally, the punishment for botched getaways is death (Jacobs 77). Imagine how easy it will be for both plantation owners to discover any runaway slaves hiding on my property, I cannot afford to take such risks.
Life on the farm is obviously not comfortable. I witness the slaves working all day as they plant the cotton and corn for their masters (Jacobs 25). When they finally have permission to retire for the night, their living conditions are more deplorable than the chicken pen my son built last summer. The cabins are not fit for the families especially when they have young children who are vulnerable, but there are some “comfortable huts of favored household slaves” in the properties (Jacobs 114). About the families, the saddest thing is that they never have the guarantee of staying together throughout their lives. The masters will sometimes sell the father or one of the children and by that, succeed in killing any self-worth among the slaves. Therefore, because of constant sales, the slave community” has “a significantly higher number of female-headed households than among whites” (Foner 439). By extension, most of the slave families will remain with the females taking care of the children while making sure they fulfill their allocated duties to the owner. At age ten, the slave owners consider the young blacks old enough and will subsequently, expect them to “enter the plantation labor force” (Foner 439). Such is the condition of slavery in North Carolina, and I am very sure other Southern States have similar practices.
The condition of the white people in North Carolina is significantly different in comparison to their slave properties. Particularly the white men, no matter the amount of property they own or level of education if any, they will predominantly head the society. I believe that the State exists “by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever” (Foner 524). Concurrently, their women do not possess any form of authority unless it is within the household or over the slaves because the home is a woman’s dominion, and blacks are inferior to the whites. However, sometimes the women have no control over the slaves. A good illustration is evident in the extra-marital affairs a white man can have with a slave or even the rape cases (Jacobs 85). Indeed, some of the white men even have children with the slaves they own. With the resulting offspring, the only option for the white men is to sell their children while the sadistic ones choose to “violate their own daughters” (Jacobs 113). All that is acceptable in the views of white supremacy and the lot has the audacity to claim that Christianity supports their actions! In their views, God favors the slavery institution but if their mistreatment of the poor race is anything to go by, then “Satan never had a truer follower” (Jacobs 77).
Ironically, Nat Turner was a black preacher and that he had “visions that convinced him God intended him to lead his people to freedom through violence” (Hine, Hine, and Harrold, 171). They were all violent and by the end of his rampage; fifty-seven white men, women, and children, he found on the plantations, were dead (Hine, Hine, and Harrold, 171). The immediate retaliation to Turner’s antics was white people panicking in the whole South, and North Carolina was no different. I followed the gang of white men as they went from plantation to plantation searching the homes of the slaves and everything in their possession to find more rebels. Nothing remained intact in the homes, and if a slave had more than what they expect him or her to have, they arrested him or her for more questioning (Jacobs 100). The whites did not even try to hide their looting, and the poor blacks lost most of their belongings to the self-proclaimed officers of the slavery laws. Expectedly, “shrieks and shouts continually rent the air” and each white man took it upon himself to apprehend a slave or two on grounds of acting suspiciously (Jacobs 102). Through it all, it was obvious “slaves stood at a fatal disadvantage in any violent encounter” with their white masters (Foner 447). Simultaneously, the rebellion showed “whites outnumbered blacks, and the white community was armed and united”, for that reason “hundreds of innocent slaves were whipped, and scores executed” (Foner 447).
Hence, while it is easy to understand Nat Turner’s actions, it was absurd for him to think he can fight white supremacy with a handful of other slaves. The only thing that can help the poor souls would be an equal force to fight against the Southerners. Meanwhile, my family and I will avoid the slaves and their owners because there are more laws protecting the properties.
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine, and Stanley C Harrold. African Americans: A Concise History. Combined Volume. 5th. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print.
Foner, Eric. Give me Liberty. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl . New York: Dover Publications, 2001. Print.